Patricia Blasquez

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Learn more about our award-winning Master’s in Strategic Public Relations online program through this informational webinar lead by GW Alum, Patricia Blasquez, and our Program Director, Prof. Larry Parnell.

Speakers: Patricia Blasquez, Director of Marketing and Communications, Econonomic Development & International Engagement, Dallas Regional Chamber, 2016 Graduate
and Larry Parnell, Program Director and Associate Professor

Transcript

Kira:

Hello everyone, and welcome to the George Washington University’s webinar featuring our program director, Professor Larry Parnell, and GW alum Patricia Blasquez, who are here to talk about the Master’s in Strategic Public Relations program from the perspective of a graduate and answer any questions you may have, so thanks for joining us today.

Kira:

So for today’s agenda, we’ll be speaking with Patricia Blasquez and our program director, Professor Larry Parnell. Professor Parnell will be providing the program overview and be joined by Marie [Aloosh 00:00:36], one of our program advisors before we dive into Q&A, so be sure to forward your questions to me at any time and we will direct them to our speakers.

Kira:

Now, I’d like to introduce our panelists. Patricia Blasquez leads marketing and communications for the DRC’s economic development efforts to promote the Dallas region and recruit companies to the area. She also manages the marketing aspects of international engagement and missions. Prior to the DRC, Patricia worked as a policy and communications aide to Mayor Mike Rawlings. She played a key role in managing crisis communications including during the July 7, 2016 attack on the Dallas law enforcement and Hurricane Harvey relief in 2017. She also served as the city’s liaison for immigration matters until the establishment of the Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigration Affairs in 2017. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in International Political Economy from the University of Texas at Dallas and a Master’s degree in Strategic Public Relations from the George Washington University.

Kira:

Joining our conversation is professor and program director Larry Parnell, who is an award-winning public relations professional and academic. He also operates Parnell Communications, an strategic communication and leadership training advisory firm. In this role, he advises government, corporate, and non-profit organizations on executive development and strategic communications. Prior to coming to GW, he had a successful 35-year career in the private and public sector and he was recognized as Peer Professional of the Year by PR Week and was named in 2015, our program was named Best PR Education Program. Professor Larry is also an author and a frequent speaker on communication, strategy, crisis and issues management, leadership skills, and corporate social responsibilities at industry conferences and universities around the world.

Kira:

Welcome both, Patricia and Professor Parnell. Now I’d like to invite Patricia to talk a bit about herself and for Professor Parnell to join the conversation. We have some follow-up questions for both of them later on. Thanks.

Patricia Blasquez:

Well, good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for choosing to spend your lunch hour with us. Since Kira did such a fantastic job with our introductions, what I would like to do is briefly talk about my career path first and then discuss my experience with the Master’s in Strategic Public Relations program. My name is Patricia. I live in Dallas and graduated from the MSPR program in 2016. As Kira mentioned, I currently serve as Director of Marketing and Communications for Economic Development and International Engagement at the Dallas Regional Chamber. I’ll talk about both roles as Director of Marketing and

Communications for the DRC as well as my previous role with Mayor Mike Rawlings’ office, and the reason why I wanted to do that is because I think managing PR for an elected official is a very unique experience. I’m sure Dr. Parnell can attest to this as well.

Lawrence Parnell:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Patricia Blasquez:

I was finishing the MSPR program during that time, so it was a lot of work.

Patricia Blasquez:

But before that, the Dallas Regional Chamber works to makes Dallas the best place to live, work, and do business. Our work in economic development and international engagement is to recruit corporate headquarters, major offices, and other facilities to the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. Probably the most attention the economic development organizations had was during the Amazon search for a location for its second headquarters. We were one of the many regions that submitted a bid for that, and came very close. That picture there on the left is Uber’s groundbreaking here in Dallas last year. We were chosen for its second largest office outside of its San Francisco headquarters. That office will employ about 3,000 people. In this role, I’m responsible for developing our marketing and communications strategy and materials to our target companies and potential investors.

Patricia Blasquez:

Internationally, we elevate DFW’s profile. Many people still think that Dallas is an oil and gas center and it’s all cowboys, and so we do a lot of work, going on trade missions abroad and hosting foreign delegations to share that message that we are very diverse in our industry makeup.

Patricia Blasquez:

I will not spend a lot of time on my previous role, but I do think it’s helpful. We had plenty of opportunities to practice crisis communications during Mayor Rawlings’ second term. We responded as well as we did because of his leadership, our great team, and the strong Dallas community. But I have to say for me personally, it’s also because of the preparation I got from George Washington University, and I’ll talk more about that later.

Patricia Blasquez:

During the attack on law enforcement in 2016 that killed five officers and injured nine others, I served as contact to local, national, and international media. You’ll see some photos there on the left with the police memorial and Mayor Rawlings giving the first press release just a day after the shooting. That week was particularly challenging. Many of us worked almost two days straight, managing a situation and the flow of communications, but [inaudible 00:06:45] especially working under a lot of uncertainty and volatility really cultivate and shape your skills and develop your and your organization’s resilience.

Patricia Blasquez:

Hurricane Harvey is another example of that. We managed shelter operations and [inaudible 00:07:00] communications on the storm and the intake of evacuees from Southern Texas. In 2018 with the increased attention on gun control, Mayor Rawlings was featured along with 245 other voices on Time

Magazine’s November 2018 issue on gun control. Views from both sides were included, illustrating the complexity of the issue while encouraging a search for a common ground. This was an example, a different approach, to issue management, which you’ll learn in your Issue Management and Crisis comms course.

Patricia Blasquez:

In Mayor Rawlings’ office, my policy areas were immigration, arts and culture, so I’ll briefly touch on them. I advised him on immigration issues beginning with the state of Texas’ withdrawal from the Refugee Resettlement Program in 2015, the administration’s travel ban in 2017, and the adoption of the city’s strategic welcoming plan. So throughout his tenure, he was really a voice for immigrants. I also oversaw the expansion of Dallas Arts Week to Dallas Arts Month. It’s his initiative with the goal of elevating our city’s profile as an arts city. That earned him an award from the Americans for the Arts and the US Conference of Mayors. This initiative was one of the two marketing campaigns that I got to work on in his office. There aren’t many of those, because in local government comms, we tended to be more reactive in our communications.

Patricia Blasquez:

So just some of the takeaways, I want to speak briefly about the GW’s MSPR experience and then turn it over to Professor Parnell and open it up for questions. I don’t believe that we had these webinars when I was a prospective student six years ago. Maybe I’m wrong. I was an inquisitive person for a good reason, because it’s a big investment. It took a few calls with my advisor and it was actually Marie Aloosh as well, before I finally decided to apply. These are some of the questions that many of you might be thinking about.

Patricia Blasquez:

Why GW’s MSPR program? I think it’s very important when you’re choosing a program to know what your objectives are. What is it that you want to learn and gain from it? For me, I knew that I was passionate about story-telling and communications, and I wanted to be in public service in some way, so I did apply to two other grad programs here locally at Southern Methodist University and NYU. But ultimately, it was the courses and the caliber of the faculty that drew me to the program. There were course offerings like speech writing, public opinion, issue and crisis management, among others. And [inaudible 00:09:59] me, you will be prepared for both the public and private sector, but the added benefit of learning how to navigate marketing and PR in the government and public sector is what makes this program so unique.

Patricia Blasquez:

What are the courses like? The courses are graduate level, so don’t assume that because it’s an online program it’s any easier or less rigorous. In fact, this program was particularly challenging. You have six weeks or so to complete a course, so you have to take several hours a week to reading, writing, and submitting your assignments. But at the end of those six weeks, you would have learned so much. In an online format, you do have to be more disciplined, because you don’t have specific times in a day that you have to show up to class, so like any job or any investment you make, you get what you put in it. To be successful, you have to put in that time and effort.

Patricia Blasquez:

And then finally, are online programs worth it? This was a big question for me. Like I said, it’s quite an investment. I still am paying student loans for it, but to this day, I don’t regret it. I speak highly of this program. It has opened many doors for me, and not necessarily just through connections, but also through knowing what I know now, because of the program. We had all types of people in the online programs, and that is important to know, whether you’re coming right out of undergrad or you’re making a career change like me. I didn’t have PR experience prior to this. Or you’re already in a mid to senior level in your career, the MSPR prepares you for that success, and I promise you guys, GW is not making me say these things.

Patricia Blasquez:

For those who are already in PR and deliberating a graduate program, I will say the PR profession is a rapidly changing one, with less traditional forms of media, new business models, shifting consumer behavior, so even if you’ve been in PR for a long time, it is a worthwhile experience. I mean, enrolling in this program is a worthwhile experience. For those who are new, it’s a good and fun career to enter. Just my advice is to know your objectives and let that lead you to the right school.

Patricia Blasquez:

This is just a high-level overview of my experience. I’ll turn it over to Dr. Parnell to jump in and we’re happy to take your questions about the program or even my work. Thank you, all.

Lawrence Parnell:

Okay, well thank you very much, Patricia, and you’ve done an excellent job of representing our program and yourself. You should be very, very proud. I know we are proud of what you’ve accomplished since your graduation.

Lawrence Parnell:

It’s my pleasure to be here with you today. This is a program I’ve been involved in for 12 years now from the beginning. We launched both as a online and a face-to-face program in Washington DC. Over those 12 years there’s been a lot of changes, a lot of improvements, a lot of updates, new courses added, exciting faculty, continues to change. One of the benefits of our program is with the exception of myself, I’m the only full-time faculty member. All of our faculty are adjuncts, meaning they basically teach one class for us as experts in that area, and nine times out of 10, they’re doing what they’re teaching during the day and then coming to class either in person or online to share their expertise and experience with real world, current experiences, and as Patricia’s indicated, that’s very valuable when you find yourself in situations where you need to call on that training.

Lawrence Parnell:

We are very much a hands-on, applied program. While the foundation of what you need to know about communications, theory, practice, and strategy are there, a lot of effort is put into preparing you to apply that in real world, current situations, not theoretical ones. Many of your assignments will be things you’re working on during the day and you can bring the classroom to work and the work to classroom, so a lot of our students benefit from that.

Lawrence Parnell:

I’m particularly pleased with the setup that Patricia has provided, because she’s an example of one of the dominant types of students we have in the online program, and that is people who are coming to us

to make a major or a slight career change, and they come to our program to get up to speed on current thinking and practice and then moving into a career. I want to suggest to you that the program is there for you depending on what you are working on, what you’re trying to do, what you want to accomplish. We have students who are fresh from undergrad. We have students who have early to mid career professionals. We have some very experienced corporate professionals but who may want to come back to school to get an advanced degree perhaps to teach down the road or maybe they want is brush up their skills in digital communications, which might not have been taught when they were undergrads. And we have, as I mentioned, career changers. Many of them, when they leave us, hopefully they have the same kind of success Patricia’s had.

Lawrence Parnell:

But we have some statistics to get to at the end of this program to show you that progress people are making. But our students tend to go into non-profit association, government, corporate agency kind of roles. Here in Washington, it’s a little more people end up working on Capitol Hill or in cabinet departments, because that’s where the jobs are in DC. The benefit of our program, I’ll get to the courses in just a minute. The benefit of our program is regardless of your career plans, it’s our view and my experience and Patricia’s has underlined that, that you must understand how things work in Washington and in government if you are to be successful as a communications professional, even if you never set foot in Washington, DC, because government, as we can all see every day on Twitter and elsewhere, government is a stakeholder in corporate communications, in non-profits, and in politics, and so the expertise that we bring from our GW prospective to give you that background is very, very critical.

Lawrence Parnell:

Okay. It’s my time now to give you an idea of what’s in the program, what the courses are. There are 10 courses, 30 credits. There are six core required courses, three electives that you choose from a variety of ones that are offered. Patricia mentioned some of them. And then you do a capstone project at the end of your time with us. These courses currently are six weeks in length. There is one at a time and there were a couple of weeks in between, and then you have another six-week session. So typically you do two classes in a semester but one at a time. Sometimes towards the end of our degree our students may want to double up to finish. That’s perfectly fine, but we encourage you when you start to take one class at a time to get used to the pace and develop a time management schedule for yourself that makes sense.

Lawrence Parnell:

The core courses really are foundational. There’s an intro course which is a SPR, principles and practice. There is a writing course, and it’s possible for experienced professionals to be waived out of that course. We don’t give you credit for experience, but we don’t require you to take a writing course if you can provide us with writing samples to show you are an experienced professional. Not college papers, but actual work you’ve done for an agency, client, a government official, a non-profit executive, et cetera. In that case, you get another elective.

Lawrence Parnell:

Many students take advantage of that extra elective or choose one of their three as you can see from the list here to come to Washington, DC for a residency or to go to any one of eight cities around the world that we take students to in the Far East, Europe, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Currently, we have classes … We have a group that’s heading to Kazakhstan and Georgia. We have also coming up in

the fall Brussels and London, and then there are trips to Mexico City, Sao Paolo, Shanghai, Beijing, although that may be put back a little bit now. That’s not till sometime next year. But four times a year, we do these global residencies. They are online classes and then you spend a week as part of a group in a major country interacting with government officials, media officials, public relation professionals, non-profits, activist groups, and then you write a paper based on something you’re interested in. It’s an unbelievably rich experience and a great, great value to our students to become global citizens, and we encourage you to take advantage of that, at least for your electives.

Lawrence Parnell:

You finish with a capstone. The capstone is basically a project that you undertake on behalf of your client, your company, or something you’re interested in, in which you apply all the work you’ve done to date. You have to produce a communications plan that would be ready to present to a client or you write a case study that you could have published, and it has to be authoritative and detailed and all that stuff we can get into if you have questions about it. And then as I tell students, I teach you in the first class, I teach you in the last class, and I shake your hand on stage at graduation. That’s the deal.

Lawrence Parnell:

We’ve been pleased to have some recognition. Here I’ve mentioned a few of these. Our program was selected the Best Program of the Year in 2015. I remember being there that day in New York City. It was very, very exciting. We’ve been picked repeatedly by organizations as having the best online program and we are constantly improving that. The Washington Post has recognized us. We’re also very military friendly, and I’ll talk some more in detail about that, but we really pride ourselves on our support for veterans coming to our program. They add a lot to our classes. We also help a lot of people transition from the service into the private sector and we’ve been very, very pleased to see that happen more and more over the years.

Lawrence Parnell:

Specifically, as a I mentioned, it is part of our culture. We’ve had thousands of military students come through the program, both face-to-face and online. We’ve had a great experience students both here in the US and because of an online option, people get deployed, they just switch to the online program and continue their studies. We find our military students to be some of our most devoted, punctual, and ready to go students, so we welcome them. We’ve been given recognition by various organizations for that and we have Yellow Ribbon status. But if you are military, we have a dedicated person who can answer all your questions about that.

Lawrence Parnell:

I mentioned before, ultimately the outputs of what we do, the outcomes of what we do is what’s most important. We just did a survey of our recent graduates in this past year of May of 2019, and you can see the numbers speak for themselves. Our students are very pleased with their experience. They would recommend it to someone, as Patricia’s just done to you, that they work with or in the industry. We’ve seen our students come out with a very strong sense of practical knowledge and skills and tools to apply their field and many of them are getting raises and promotion within six months of leaving us or new jobs elsewhere because the Master’s degree from a major university like GW has a lot of currency in the marketplace and a lot of value in terms of your career advancement in both where you currently are, perhaps a new job you want to get into.

Lawrence Parnell:

We’re happy to answer questions about that. We are very, very proud of our program. I’ll turn it over to Marie in just a minute. Marie is our den mother. She’s been taking care of our students for many, many years and is a very knowledgeable person and we enjoy having her around. I’ll be back to answer questions at the end of the [inaudible 00:22:36] with Kira and Patricia and thank you very much for your time.

Marie Aloosh:

Good afternoon, everyone. First of all, I’d like to thank you all for taking the time today out of your busy schedule to join us. I will be going over the application requirements and process also.

Marie Aloosh:

Okay the application requirements are basically an online application form that your advisor will be sending to you with a checklist of the required documents you need to submit. They are basically two letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, 250 to 500 words, unofficial copies of transcripts from colleges and universities you attended. Unofficial copies are acceptable for the review process. When you receive your decision and you’re ready to start your first class, we will request the official copies also. When you submit all the required documents, there is an $80 non-refundable application fee, and we submit your application for review. The GPA requirements is a 3.0 or over. If it’s under a 3.0, please contact your admissions advisor and they will guide you through it. All you need is a work portfolio and that’s if you have three years plus full-time work experience.

Marie Aloosh:

Now we are accepting applications at this time for the two summer terms. Summer I is May the 4th, Summer II is June the 29th. Please contact your enrollment advisor today. Their names and contact information is below on that slide, with questions for them to give you all the information that’s required to start the application process for the summer term.

Marie Aloosh:

Okay, thank you everyone, and have a great afternoon.

Kira:

Great, thank you, Marie. So I’m now going to bring back Patricia, our spotlighted speaker for today’s event. Patricia, to start, it’s very interesting that you mentioned originally you were not on the track for PR and that you were originally from international relations and non-profits, and it was actually George Washington’s program that helped launch your career into PR. Can you speak a little bit about that in terms of how your career path meandered and what inspired you to enter PR?

Patricia Blasquez:

Yes. I was actually coming out of undergrad, I wanted to be in foreign service and eventually become a diplomat, an ambassador later on in life. However, I took up this internship with the International Rescue Committee and was placed in the development program. Our responsibility was to raise funds for the non-profit organization. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the IRC, it’s one of the largest, if not the largest NGO serving refugees. They do both rescue and resettlement. While I was there, I was given projects that tended to be more into fundraising and so a lot of that had a communications touch

to it and so because I was in that position and later developed a passion for storytelling, I made a decision to go into public relations. I’d like to tell people stories and I like to engage with people and bridging the public and brand, whether that brand is a person, a product, or an organization. I wanted to be in the middle of that.

Patricia Blasquez:

The reason why a Master’s program is because I wanted that practical experience in it. I wanted, as Dr. Parnell was saying, not just theoretical but a practical experience as well, and so that’s why I chose GW’s MSPR program.

Kira:

Perfect, and what-

Lawrence Parnell:

I think that’s very helpful, Patricia. I wanted to just make a comment there about this is a very common experience for our students. Either they’ve already decided that they wanted a career in PR and they know that an advanced degree in the current environment is becoming more and more expected of middle to senior level positions, or they’re interested in the skillset that the program helps you develop, and they can apply it in any number of ways. We do have many people who come through our program, do well, graduate, and go into public relations agencies, corporations, non-profits.

Lawrence Parnell:

We also have people that go into other fields and leverage their communication skills to develop the business, to raise money for a foundation, to start a foundation, and the base skills that we’re providing, which are communications, audience identification, messaging, measurement of your message to people, is valuable regardless of where you’re going to go, and so I do think it’s important that whether you’re dead-set on going into PR, we certainly believe we’re the right program. Or you want to develop your PR toolkit because you want to apply it somewhere else, those students would fit in well in our program and not feel like they are not in the right place.

Kira:

Thanks, Larry. And back to Patricia. I wonder what was your thought process like when you’re research different schools out there, because I know a lot of our prospective students are going through that same way of thinking in terms of just with the market being quite crowded, how had the research phase for you been?

Patricia Blasquez:

I think with research, as far as researching programs, [inaudible 00:28:44] I would go back to knowing what your objectives are for entering the field anyway. With the GWU, I was also considering SMU, because it’s local, and NYU for their corporate communications program. I was really at the end of it, choosing between NYU and GWU and doing a self inventory if you will. Do I want this experience that’s more corporate comms focused or this experience that has a little bit of both with just more specialization in the government public affairs sector?

Patricia Blasquez:

I wanted the experience of living in DC and moving there. Unfortunately, I got a job offer and that restricted me to living here in Dallas, and so I started researching online programs, and GWU I quickly saw was one of the top. It’s not number one program at that time in online PR programs. A lot of it, the researching, looking at the courses, the professors, and this is something, this is an advice that I give to people even outside of the Master’s MPR program, any graduate student at all. Knowing what you want to specialize in, looking up the professors who are potential connection later on and looking for a potential mentor, you want to be intentional and strategic about what school you select. [crosstalk 00:30:29]

Lawrence Parnell:

That brings up a couple of messages, if I could just chime in here. One, I’m pleased, obviously, that you chose GW and you’re doing so well, and you’re welcome to come to DC any time your career opportunity takes you here. We certainly have a lot of people who do that. But I want to say to the prospective students on the call, it’s very important, and you heard a little bit of this in Patricia’s comment. It’s very important what university you pick to be your graduate school. Obviously, we’d like it to be GW, but as you make this decision, it is a decision you have to make both looking forward and looking backward. When you submit a resume down the road, what university is on your resume, where you got your Master’s from, is very important from the brand perspective.

Lawrence Parnell:

I’ll be very candid. If it’s a university people are not familiar with or don’t necessarily have a great impression of, decided to go there because it’s less expensive or because it is convenient may not be your best bet. That is ultimately up to you, but you want to have a university that brings to you a brand name, a cache in the marketplace, both where you are and where you hope to be, and also internationally. And also, you want to make sure that that university provides, as GW and other schools you mentioned do, an alumni base that you can tap into for networking and contacts and follow up.

Lawrence Parnell:

Here at GW, our program has been around for 12 years, I mentioned. We have about 750 alums of just the SPR degree program. Probably 5,000 from the GSPM, which is the school that we’re housed in, and 270,000 GW alums worldwide. That’s an amazing network that you can tap into as a member of that group, so as you enroll for jobs, for introductions, and that’s a very important consideration when you’re thinking about which school to go to.

Kira:

Professor Parnell. Patricia, you mentioned a number of times that you really enjoyed the curriculum. Could you speak a little bit what course or courses really stood out for you and how your experience has been like?

Patricia Blasquez:

Yeah, well I will start with saying as I mentioned before that it’s a pretty rigorous program and I think that is a good quality of the MSPR program is that you will be challenged, but you will have learned so much after the six weeks that you’ve been in these courses. They’re deep dives. They’re not just we take six weeks and you get a high level overview of these different concepts. I think some of my favorite classes is the crisis communications really stood out for me. It’s called Issue Management and Crisis Communications, for the simple reason that you’ll want to be proactive. You don’t want to have to be

dealing with something that’s already become a crisis. You want to deal with it while it’s an issue that you can still manage, and so I think with Mayor Rawlings, with working during the police ambush, we had to be more reactive but really detecting the issues very early on is something that our professor reiterated and so we had several case studies with General Electric, from businesses like General Electric to organizations like Greenpeace and other NGOs. That was a standout for me.

Patricia Blasquez:

I think one of the hardest classes, I’m not trying to scare anyone, is the Political Socialization and Public Opinion class. I think I recall our professor saying it’s impossible for you to read all of my materials, so you will have to get in groups and divvy it up and take notes and help each other out, and so I think the really cool part of that is that we got to engage with our classmates. We do have group chats in each course.

Lawrence Parnell:

Yes.

Patricia Blasquez:

But it really allowed for collaboration during that course. It was a cool experience to get to work on this research project as part of that course and interview people from all over the US. Again, one of the benefits of being in an online program is that you could be collaborating with someone in Japan. I know one of my good friends who I met through this program, Nikki [Jedlika 00:35:16], was in Japan in Osaka while we were completing this [crosstalk 00:35:21] together.

Lawrence Parnell:

Oh, you know Nikki? I didn’t know you knew Nikki. Yeah, Nikki’s back town now.

Patricia Blasquez:

Yes, yes. Oh, yeah, she told me she was going back to GSPM for I think a different program.

Lawrence Parnell:

Yes.

Patricia Blasquez:

Oh, that’s awesome.

Lawrence Parnell:

Yep.

Patricia Blasquez:

She’s amazing. The sustainability communications was also was a standout for me. Dr. Page is … See, I still remember these classes. Dr. Page is someone that I connected with. I don’t know if she remembers me, because she must have collaborated with so many students, but she was so helpful. In fact, she was also my capstone advisor and she’s really knowledgeable in the social media component as well, the less traditional forms of PR. A lot of these you will learn it, as I said, it’s a rapidly-changing field and GWU does such a fantastic job of remaining relevant and knowi

Kira:

[crosstalk 00:36:30]

Lawrence Parnell:

I’m enjoying you go through that. You didn’t mentioned any of my courses, but I won’t take that personally this time, but seriously, the notion of collaboration and working together with students is important. You’re not on your own as an online student. The format is such that you interact in groups and in discussion boards as much, if not more so, than many students do in the classroom. The friendships that I’ve seen in the 12 years and the connections all over the world, like you’ve just referenced with Nikki, come up all the time. I hear people say that they prefer other friends and contacts to jobs. I heard about something somewhere and they keep in touch and they talk about the business and their lives and their families and it’s a really gratifying thing to see. These professional friendships turn into personal friendships and become lifelong for many, many of our students.

Lawrence Parnell:

The professors you mentioned have all been with the program from the beginning, which is important to know. Both Dr. Zingman, who is a character, but is one that everyone says the exact same thing, Patricia, “That class is so hard but I use it all the time and I really remember it.” It’s one of those kind of courses. [inaudible 00:37:52] talk about sustainability. He thinks sustainability represents a tremendous opportunity for young professionals to get into. If you understand that area, there’s a tremendous growth for jobs and potential for you to do that.

Lawrence Parnell:

The important thing about issues and crisis management that I want to emphasize to you and then I’ll go back to your questions, Kira, that is our focus in that class is certainly how to deal with a crisis, as you ought to, but as Patricia points out, it’s much more valuable in your career to prevent a fire than it is to put the fire out. But that takes a knowledge base and a way of looking at things as they’re developing, understanding your market, your competitors, what’s going on in the world, and bringing ideas and value and concerns to the company before they explode into a crisis. If you can do that, you’re much more valuable to someone than someone who they call when things go haywire. It’s important, but then it’s over and then you go back to being whatever you were before. But a strategic advisor who can bring ideas and solve problems before they explode is highly valued in the marketplace. Kira?

Patricia Blasquez:

I definitely agree with that [crosstalk 00:39:11]

Kira:

Yes, I want to ask you, Patricia, about the capstone, because I had spoken with other graduates in the program as well, and I mean, aside from the curriculum that they love it, the curriculum really stands out for them. Do you still remember what your capstone was on and what that meant for you?

Patricia Blasquez:

Oh, our capstone, and Nikki and I, Nikki Jedlika and I were doing the capstone. We chose our groups, so you work in groups of three, I believe. I don’t remember how we chose the case study and the company that we did, but I think we chose Anheuser-Busch and bev. It’s a beer company and we developed the

communications plan for them geared towards young adults. Quite a lot of research. I need to refresh my memory on what we did with that, but the capstone process, it’s still like any other class. You still complete it in the same amount of time. It’s still six weeks long, and Dr. Page was our advisor. She walked us through-

Lawrence Parnell:

That’s actually changed now, Patricia. No, it’s now-

Patricia Blasquez:

Sorry, apologies, yeah.

Lawrence Parnell:

It’s now a full semester.

Patricia Blasquez:

Oh, even better.

Lawrence Parnell:

It’s now a full semester because we felt that we wanted to give people more time with the subject, so one of the things that’s changed since you’ve been with us is the capstone is a semester, a full semester, where you have the time to research something, prepare recommendations, and most students do it individually now, as opposed to in groups. And then you present it in a narrated PowerPoint that you post on the discussion board and everybody gives you feedback on it. It’s morphed into something even more challenging and exciting than it used to be when you were in it. That’s an example of how the program continues to improve and change over time.

Patricia Blasquez:

That’s great. Dr. Page was our advisor. I do remember that. She walked you through how to determine your strategy and your research, the situational analysis. I do remember now. We chose Budweiser and we did a campaign with the goal of increasing awareness in using their safe driving program, highlighting its Good Sport designated driver program, so we wanted to communicate. We did a communications plan and a partnership with Uber, just to improve the brand visibility and consumer engagement. The reason for that, the National Transportation and Safety Board at that time was calling for a reduction in the impaired blood alcohol content, the threshold, to a lower percentage, and so it would have affected the company’s bottom line tremendously, so we just created a strategy around that. Their slogan was Beer Tastes Better When You Make Good Choices. Something like that. And it was a really unique campaign.

Lawrence Parnell:

It comes back to you when you think about it for a second.

Patricia Blasquez:

The one thing that I will say, sorry, the other thing that I would say with the capstone is it’s your last course of the program and so you would have spent all that time developing these relationships with

your classmates and so because Nikki and I were in several classes, so we just … It was a natural fit for us to collaborate on this capstone.

Lawrence Parnell:

Do you have some advice, [crosstalk 00:43:05]

Patricia Blasquez:

I would advise to really getting to know …

Lawrence Parnell:

Go ahead. Do you have some advice for the students on the call about managing your time to do the work, working full time and going to graduate school? How did you do it?

Patricia Blasquez:

How did I … I had always been a working student, but you really have to be disciplined with your time management, of course. I was working full time and going to school full time. So always having that mindset that how much you put into it is what you’ll get out of it, and some things just have to give. You can’t be involved with everything. You can’t sometimes while people are having a good weekend and getting involved outside of work, I was doing my readings and completing assignments while they were doing that, and so be disciplined and divide it into pieces. These are not classes where you can procrastinate. You have discussions and your professor gives you a syllabus and it tells you what the expectations are for the week. Make a plan and stick to it. So for Monday or Tuesday I will do this and I will complete this portion of the assignment. So make a schedule and try to stick to your schedule and create deadlines for yourself, I think is my advice.

Lawrence Parnell:

That’s good advice.

Kira:

I just want to give the chance for Patricia to, I guess, offer some closing remarks in terms of any insights or advice you may have for prospective students who are thinking about embracing or embarking on this journey of going back to school and following through with GWU’s Master’s in Strategic Public Relations online program. Any thoughts for us? Thanks, Patricia.

Patricia Blasquez:

Sure. One of the things that I remember telling myself was this quote from Natalie Portman, and she says, “I don’t like studying. I like learning. Learning is beautiful.” I think that that is the mantra that I took on when I enrolled in the MSPR program is just this desire to keep learning. In order to adapt to today’s market, it’s important for you to have that attitude, an attitude towards your studies and towards you career is that you want to keep learning, even if you are a seasoned professional or even if you’re new in this career, just put on this attitude that you want to learn, and even then, your professors are exactly the same. They like spending time with you and hearing from you and they also are open to hearing of your opinions about certain concepts in the courses that you’re taking. I would suggest that.

Patricia Blasquez:

I would also suggest really engaging with your classmates. There were some days where we’re so busy at work and, “Oh, I’ll skip today’s discussion,” or, “I won’t participate in the group discussions or the chat.” I would highly suggest that if you can at all, make time to reach out to your professors and build those relationships and learn from them. Find a mentor. For me, it was Dr. Page. I just somehow I connected with her a lot. I finally met her during our graduation, which was really cool.

Patricia Blasquez:

And then for those of you who are making a career change, it will be harder. For me, it felt like I was behind on the fundamental, the foundational courses. I remember my first course that I took is Advanced Writing in PR, and I remember my professor, the first pitch that I submitted, she was like, “You need to shorten this a lot.” Taking that and just learning from it, it gets better. It gets better the more courses you are. If you treat yourself like a sponge and you’re absorbing all this knowledge, it really is a good experience and so if you are terrified because you have not practiced PR before, I was in the same shoes. I’m happy to talk with you offline if you want to connect on that as well.

Kira:

Thank you so much, Patricia. Those are great tips for our prospective students looking into getting into the program. Thank you to you for reserving a time.

Patricia Blasquez:

Thank you.

Kira:

Yeah, to share your experience and your insights. Professor Parnell, for yours as well, and especially to our audience. I know for spending the lunch hour with us-